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Teenager shares love of vintage film with local seniors

14-year-old Holden Dittrick has found a captive audience in the seniors at Cobblestone Gardens; 'It brings me joy watching them laugh and having fun'

It’s become a treat that the retired seniors at Cobblestone Gardens look forward to every month.

14-year-old Holden Dittrick stops by the Ormond St. retirement home to play residents vintage movies on his old projector. 

“They grew up with this stuff,” says Dittrick, in an interview with ThoroldToday. “I do this so I can bring back joy with the films that used to entertain them as kids.”

Dittrick started collecting old projectors and movies about two years ago.

“We went to Value Village one day and he saw an old projector,” explains his grandmother Donna. “I said: ‘Why on earth would you want that for? It probably doesn’t even work.’ He’s always been like an old soul. He really likes old stuff, so I bought it for him.”

Getting the projector to work was a challenge of its own.

“It didn’t have a bulb so we had to hardwire a flashlight with a wooden stand into it,” says Dittrick. “Then we found another [projector] at the flea market that we got too. It was a small one but it worked pretty well. Then I found another one. That’s pretty much where it sky-rocketed off.”

Dittrick currently has a collection of 22 projectors and over 100 films.

Every week, he visits the local flea market to collect new reels and equipment.

Dittrick’s most-prized film is one of the old comedy duo Abbott and Costello because it was the first film he ever bought.

“It’s sentimental to me,” he says. “I paid a chunk of money for it, and that’s really where it started.”

With an ever-expanding collection, Dittrick might soon run out of space, but he says he’s not worried because he can always sell some items from his archive.

“They’re really worth a lot,” Dittrick says. “I have some old Mickey Mouse ones that are really worth a chunk, and some old Looney Tunes too.”

And when it comes to the projectors, he often mines them for parts.

“[The light bulbs] only have a shelf life of ten to 24 hours and then they will die,” he says. “You would take parts from the one that died for another one that needs parts.”

His favourite projector is one he bought most recently.

“I paid 125 bucks for it in Toronto,” he says. “It is the oldest one I’ve ever found: 1923. It didn’t even need to be fixed.”

It was Dittrick’s grandmother Donna who got him the gig at Cobblestone Gardens back in August.

“My mom was a resident here,” she tells ThoroldToday. “I knew they did activities up in this room so I thought it would be a good opportunity. It’s old movies that they can relate to and they really enjoy.”

Nothing was more evident last Tuesday, when the lights went down and the projector started flickering, beaming an old copy of Disney’s Mary Poppins onto the silver screen.

Instantly, the faces of the local residents lit up.

“I enjoy them all coming down here,” Dittrick says. “It brings me joy watching them laugh and having fun, remembering all the old movies that they used to watch.”